Rapid distortion theory as a means of exploring the structure of turbulence

  • J. C. R. Hunt
  • D. J. Carruthers
  • J. C. H. Fung
Conference paper


Turbulence structure is discussed in terms of the different length scales of a turbulent flow—the large scale motions characteristic of the boundary conditions and forcing of the particular flow and, for high Reynolds numbers, the universal small scale motions. Evidence is presented that in shear flows and flows near boundaries the large scale structure of many different turbulent flows is similar. The analysis and understanding of different types and different regions of turbulent flows, and in particular their sensitivity to boundary and initial conditions, is clarified by using the classification of “rapidly changing turbulence” (RCT) and “slowly changing turbulence” (SCT), according to whether the time (T D) over which fluid particles pass through (or near) changes in the mean flow or boundary conditions is much less or much greater than the characteristic time of the large scales of the turbulence (T L). It is noted that in all unconfined turbulent flows, the turbulence structure adjusts so that, T D ~ T L, which implies that some features of the initial conditions, and boundary conditions can persist throughout the flow. A possible physical explanation is suggested.

The linear “Rapid distortion theory” (RDT) of turbulence and its assumptions are briefly reviewed here. It is shown that it is strictly applicable to the former category (RCT). But for some flows the linear theory has slowly changing solutions, or “statistical eigensolutions”, and these approximate to certain features of slowly changing turbulent flows (SCT). Examples are given of shear flows and turbulence near boundaries. In addition RDT can be used to simulate some aspects of the large eddy structures of turbulent shear flows.

The style of this paper is informal; for details of some of the results see Hunt & Carruthers (1990) (HC) and Carruthers, Fung, Hunt & Perkins (1990).


Shear Flow Turbulent Boundary Layer Isotropic Turbulence Vorticity Field Fluid Element 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


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© Springer-Verlag New York Inc. 1991

Authors and Affiliations

  • J. C. R. Hunt
  • D. J. Carruthers
  • J. C. H. Fung

There are no affiliations available

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